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How to Sell Your House in Winter

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Even in this market, there are ways.

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How do you make your home appealing so it sells in winter (and in this market)?

I reached out to experts across the country for tips on selling your home this time of year.
"Winter is typically the time of year when fewer buyers are looking for homes, but the buyers who are looking are serious about buying," said National Association of Realtors president Vicki Cox Golder.

Pricing your home effectively, enhancing curb appeal, de-cluttering, showcasing areas like the kitchen and bathroom, as well as making sure the home is well-maintained, will attract more buyers and can improve value, said Golder.

Ten weeks was the median time recently sold homes were on the market, according to the National Association of Realtors Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers 2009.

The report also showed that on average, recently sold homes went for 95% of the listing price.

Experts have seen an increase in home sales with the tax credit for home buyers. Golder agrees today's home sellers will benefit from the recently extended and expanded tax credit.

"Current homeowners can qualify for a credit of up to $6,500 when buying a home; if they've lived in their current residence for five consecutive years of the past eight," said Golder. "And the extended $8,000 tax credit for first-time home buyers will continue to move buyers into the market, which will help people who are currently trying to sell their home." (For more information, visit www.realtor.org/taxcreditbasics.)

Below are top tips on warming up your home sale when it's cold outside.

1. Turn Up the Warmth

Many homeowners keep the temperature a little colder during the day when they aren't home. Keep your house a touch warmer, said Mabel Guzman, 2009-2010 president-elect for the Chicago Association of Realtors. "Buyers will wonder what is wrong with the furnace or think the home is too expensive to heat," said Guzman. The same applies for vacant homes. You don't want buyers rushing through your house just to get out of the cold.

2. Just Because Winter Is Dark, Your Home Shouldn't Be

During the day, draw back the curtains, open the blinds and if it's a gray overcast day, turn on the lights so your home isn't dark. At night, Michalene Melges, a Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, Realtor with Keefe Real Estate, recommends showcasing your home with lights outside. For example, adding spot lights that highlight your entrance or a favorite maple tree."Light it up! Winter, if done right ... can be magical," said Melges. "The sun sets around 4 o'clock but, the world doesn't go to bed."

3. Let People In

Ohio Realtor Cecilia Sherrard said the biggest mistake she sees is when sellers postpone home showings -- sometimes not allowing buyers in for a couple of weeks (for example, due to weather or holidays). Sherrard said she has seen active buyers purchase similar homes to theirs within that time.

4. Hide the Shovel (and the Salt)

Make sure walkways are cleared of snow and ice. Porches, driveways, decks, and garages should have easy access. "Don't leave your shovel or salt near the front door. These items tell the buyer that they'll have to work if they own your home," said Starr Osborne, founder of Philadelphia's premier home staging company, Tailored Transitions, and author of Home Staging that Works (Amacom, 2010).

5. Mind the Places You Don't Notice, But Your Buyers Do


Don't shrink your closets by storing every coat in it, just the essentials. Buyers will look in your cabinets and storage areas; organize these areas to show off space.
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